The Blues traded defenseman Eric Brewer to the Tampa Bay Lightning today for a draft pick and a defensive prospect.
Brewer, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, waived his no-trade clause to complete the deal. The Blues received a third-round pick in the 2011 NHL draft and the signing rights to 18-year old defenseman Brock Beukeboom, who currently is playing for Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario Hockey League.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong met with Brewer on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of making a deal.
"I was quite honest with Eric," Armstrong said. "Where we are in the standings, it's an uphill battle. I believe strongly in our team, that they're going to push and they're going to fight.
"But with Eric's situation and with our young player's moving forward, I thought it was an obligation of the franchise to be honest, what direction we were going to go with our defense. It gives Eric a chance to go to a stanley cup contending team that has a chance to play into June. It allows him to show his worth and it allows us to get some things for the future."
Brewer, who recently added a baby girl to his family, said he wasn't thinking about a trade. But when Armstrong approached him Tuesday about the possibility, he listened. And after a couple of conversations with Armstrong, Brewer eventually gave his preference of being dealt to Tampa Bay.
"Just the fact that (the Blues) were inquiring and wanted to have some dialogue about a possible move ...," Brewer said. "I think in the end, you just want to make a good decision for everyone and put yourself in a really good spot to play hockey for a long time. Playing in Tampa will certainly change that this year."
Brewer played parts of six seasons in St. Louis, often interrupted by injuries, but finally healed from a nerve issue, he was arguably playing some of his best hockey this season. He had eight goals and 14 points, with a plus-1 rating.
Of potentially re-signing with the Blues, Brewer said: "It was always probably our first choice. I guess it sounds weird now that I've been moved, but we've always like (St. Louis). But both myself and Army decided that we'd move on with it. It went very well and that was that. But we certainly had lots of thoughts and were of the mind that we would stay, but stuff chances pretty quick. We've always really liked it in St. Louis. It's been easy to live there and been easy to like the people around us."
The 31-year old Brewer was acquired by the Blues in the trade that sent Chris Pronger to Edmonton in August, 2005. Brewer was the last remnant of the Pronger deal, in which the Blues obtained three players from the Oilers - Brewer, defenseman Jeff Woywitka and defenseman Doug Lynch. Woywitka is now with the Dallas Stars, while Lynch is playing in Salzburg, Austria.
Pronger has since won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim and reached the Cup finals with both Edmonton and his current team, Philadelphia.
That was never lost on fans, some who have held it against the defenseman during his time in St. Louis. Brewer said Friday that he wished more media would have taken the time to get to know him.
"It happened a long time ago," Brewer said. "He was traded a couple of times after the trade was made. It was a difficult set of circumstances for (former Blues GM Larry Pleau). He made it. I embraced it and we kind of did what we could. I think most of the (controversy) was kept alive by what people thought was a lingering effect of that trade. I think for the people who didn't come around the rink and spend a little bit of time with me and the other guys didn't get a good feel of me as a person or what I'm about. I think it would have helped to sit down for a coffee or a beer ... it would have made a difference. Not in the light of trying to change someone's opinion, just come down and say, 'Hey.' That always makes a difference. I think a lot of stuff was floating around for no reason whatsoever."
In 2008, Brewer was named the Blues captain, a move that remains controversial till this day with fans.
"I was very, very proud to be named captain of the Blues," Brewer said. "It was one of the biggest compliments I've ever gotten. It's a position I really truly loved ... just being a guy that's relied upon for a variety of different things. It was really quite enjoyable and got a view from the coaches side of things, which helps you understand why things are done a certain way. But at the end of the day, you're there for the guys, and the guys were wonderful for me. I think for the most part, they thought that I was a guy that was there for them."
Indications are the Blues will not name a captain to replace Brewer before the current season ends.
"What we're going to do is we're going to play the rest of the season with the assistant captains that we have," Armstrong said. "We'll evaluate the organization from this point forward with regard to leadership. Then (Blues coach) Davis (Payne) and I will sit down and discuss who's the next captain of the St. Louis Blues, or if we don't find the right person, we may continue with the assistant captains.
"We hope that someone steps up and takes grab of the locker room. But you never know what might happen. There might be a new player come in from a different organization between now and then that has captain written all over him. So for the rest of this year, we're just going with the A's as they are."
Meanwhile, the Blues have a new player in their organization.
Beukeboom, has played 44 games for Sault Ste. Marie this season. The son of former NHL defenseman Jeff Beukeboom (pronounced BOO-kuh-BOOM), Brock was drafted by Tampa Bay in the third round (63rd overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He played forward through much of his youth before recently making the change to defenseman.
"We were looking to add some assets, some future assets," Armstrong said. "You never know what interest there's going to be. I think getting Brock Beukeboom, who was a very early third-round pick last year, and a third-round pick this year, gives us another bullet in the chamber at this year's entry draft and gives us another young prospect on defense.
"I had information on him from people at Hockey Canada about him, and they said very good things about him. I was very comfortable with the prospect and obviously the pick is something that the scouts always want you to get more of. It was a return that I felt was satisfying enough to make the deal now."
The Brewer trade could be the first of several moves by the Blues before the Feb. 28 NHL trade deadline. As the team plays in Buffalo tonight, it is 13th in the 15-team Western Conference, nine points removed from the last playoff spot.
"I'm not sure we'll be busy," Armstrong said. "We're going to be active, certainly making phone calls. We're going to be active listening to what's available. Quite honestly, when I look at our roster now, I would say the deals that we'll make moving forward will be more ‘hockey trade' than trade for future.
"Obviously, Eric's the one, he's an Olympian, he's our team captain, he had an excellent reputation around the league, he was someone that I felt was going to garner some interest from teams that were looking to add. I think it speaks well for him. But I think the deals we have moving forward are going to be more hockey oriented than draft pick oriented."
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